Unemployment & Maternity Leave
Unemployment Insurance: Collecting Compensation on Maternity
Growing families often wonder if they can collect unemployment compensation while on maternity leave. The answer is - maybe.
Traditionally, unemployment benefits were designed for workers physically able to work who lost their job, while disability insurance helped workers who were physically unable to work. However, the rules are changing. You may have multiple options:
Unemployment for Compelling Family Reasons
Unemployment insurance is generally not intended for people who voluntarily leave their jobs. But sometimes outside factors may force an individual to stop working temporarily. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provided funding to states as an incentive to upgrade state level unemployment benefits.
One portion of this law provides an opening for use during maternity leave. The ARRA provides funding to states to encourage the expansion of benefits to include those leaving work voluntarily for “good cause”. One component of this definition is a “compelling family reason” which include caring for a sick family member, and sometimes includes a worker’s own disabling health condition.
Twenty two states have accepted the modernization incentives as of December 2012, and implemented the expanded ways a family might be eligible to collect benefits. The states are broken down into three categories:
Unemployment Compensation for Own Disability
There are only a handful of states that expanded the eligibility criteria of unemployment to include a worker’s own inability to work. Keep in mind these regulations are still quite new, untested, and not well publicized.
Each of the states listed in this category do not have a mandated state disability program - which is designed for people intending to return to work. This may be the only opportunity to file a claim, but there are no guarantees: each state employs different policies.
Arkansas, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Texas, Washington
Unemployment Insurance: Filing for Parental Leave
Not every pregnancy is perfectly healthy. Almost half of all pregnancies result in mom leaving work before her due date. Mom may experience complications prior to delivery and need to leave work earlier than planned.
Not every baby is born perfectly healthy. Almost one eighth of all babies are delivered preterm, and may experience a variety of medical complications. Others are born with defects that might need correction, or an illness. Any of these factors may force new parents to take time away from work that was unplanned.
The states listed below allow a family to file for unemployment to care for a sick family member.
Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, Wiconsin.
Gaps in Maternity Leave Laws
Maternity leave unemployment needs to be cut in two: your initial leave, and your return to work.
During your initial maternity leave, unemployment insurance will not pay benefits. Unemployment Insurance is intended to help people who lose their jobs due to economic reasons - ie no fault of their own. Your maternity leave is not the same as job loss - it's considered a disability: you are unable to work for medical reasons. Unemployment insurance is intended for job loss.
When you attempt to return to work you may not longer have a job. State and federal maternity leave laws provide job protection for specific time periods for some workers. Your leave may extend beyond the specified time frames, or your employer may or may not be subject to these laws.
Your leave may extend beyond the job-protected timeline if you experience postpartum disorders. You may miss more work than expected. If your leave time exceeds the mandated timeline, your employer does not have to bring you back. Once you are physically able to work again, you may be eligible to unemployment insurance benefits.
If your employer holds your job open during your maternity leave, it will be difficult to collect a benefit. But don't let that stop you from trying. File a claim anyway - all they can do is say "NO".
If you lose your job during maternity leave, then unemployment insurance may pay benefits in the remaining thirty eight states yet to "modernize" unemployment compensation in line with Federal incentives.
Unemployment During Your Pregnancy
Unemployment during pregnancy can occur for a host of reasons: job performance, economic downturns, or your own pregnancy disability. Each situation has differing consequences for you.
If you lose your job because of documented job performance shortcomings you are in a tough spot. Unemployment insurance in most states typically does not cover performance based job loss. On the other hand if you lost your job because your pregnancy prevented you from performing your job duties you may be able to protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
If you are laid off during your pregnancy as part of a general staff reduction you should file an unemployment claim with your local state office. Unemployment insurance is designed for people in your situation.
Your doctor may order you to stop working before your delivery. Missed work due to pregnancy complications are considered a disability, and unemployment insurance would not apply. However, short term disability insurance would replace a portion of your income during this time. A private policy will help if coverage began before getting pregnant.